"Treading Yesterday is a brave foray into a part of history often left unexplored in mainstream cinema.”
Craig Bettendorf's original series, "Treading Yesterday," operates as a poignant time capsule, transporting viewers back to the late 1980s and its palpable intolerance towards the LGBTQ+ community. The series is an engrossing blend of historical fiction and contemporary drama that situates itself in the same sphere as seminal works like "Milk" and "Brokeback Mountain," offering a nuanced exploration of the LGBTQ+ experience across decades.
The series orbits around Eric, a gay man who, despite enjoying a seemingly idyllic existence, finds himself mired in the harsh realities of 1988—a period marked by severe anti-gay sentiments. Bettendorf, a seasoned LGBTQ+ activist and filmmaker, brings a wealth of personal experience and historical accuracy to his series, infusing it with authenticity. As evident in his previous works such as "Homosaywhat" (2020) and "Not a Tame Lion" (2023), Bettendorf deftly navigates the dichotomy between past intolerance and present acceptance, shedding light on the inherent challenges that exist in both periods.
Bettendorf's direction is reminiscent of luminaries like Gus Van Sant and Ang Lee, where a delicate balance of raw emotion and subtle nuance is key. Just as Denis Villeneuve masterfully crafted the vast, intricate universe of "Dune," Bettendorf meticulously constructs his own microcosm of queer history, laden with socio-cultural complexities and profound human experiences. The sharp contrast between the bleak 1980s and the more accepting present day creates a compelling narrative tapestry that is as educational as it is entertaining.
The series, shot on a RED camera, is visually compelling with its 16:9 aspect ratio offering viewers a panoramic view of Eric's life. The film's color palette mirrors its thematic transitions—from the grim tones of the past to the brighter hues of the present. This visual storytelling aligns it with cinematic gems like "Moonlight" and "Call Me by Your Name," where the visual aesthetics and narrative are inextricably linked.
Bettendorf's "Treading Yesterday" is a brave foray into a part of history often left unexplored in mainstream cinema. It deftly incorporates elements of drama, romance, and science fiction to create a multifaceted portrayal of the LGBTQ+ experience. The series is a testament to the importance of preserving and narrating the voices of marginalized communities, and in doing so, it acts as a potent weapon against discrimination, intolerance, and hate.
Like Herbert's "Dune," which challenged the conventional hero trope, "Treading Yesterday" subverts the traditional narrative, offering an authentic portrayal of a gay protagonist in a hostile society. Bettendorf's series stands as a beacon of progress in the cinematic landscape, a testament to the strides made by the LGBTQ+ community, and a powerful reminder of the struggles that have paved the way for current freedoms.
In its first season, "Treading Yesterday" has demonstrated the power of storytelling to inspire dialogue and challenge societal norms. As it continues to seek development partners, there is no doubt that this series has a rich potential to further explore the multi-faceted experiences of the LGBTQ+ community and contribute significantly to the broader discourse on representation and inclusivity in film.
Review by: Raúl Asensio Diaz, as seen in MovieMaker Magazine, May 2023
Treading Yesterday, the series, will begin its rolling release of Season 2 to multiple streaming platforms during the first half of 2023.
Tune in to follow Eric's friends and family as they seek to understand his catatonic state in the present while he continues his journey through 1989, attempting to correct what he believes to be his life's greatest regret.
Treading Yesterday Season 1 has been Nominated for 5 Indie Series Awards including Best Drama Series, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Lead Actor for Kai Morgan, Best Lead Actress for Kyla Sylvers and Best Supporting Actor for Jax Buresh.
Treading Yesterday promises to be an engaging most likely binge-worthy series.
Craig Bettendorf’s Treading Yesterday explores the world of a close-knit group of gay men who have been friends since the late 1980s. Bettendorf develops his characters just enough in the first episode to entice us into wanting to know more about them. For those who have watched the ground-breaking Showtime series, Queer as Folk, they will find that Treading Yesterday covers many of the same themes, but with a fresh plot twist and the hope of being something more than mere entertainment.
In the first episode, we meet the main character, Eric a middle-aged gay man living in 21st Century America. Eric is the narrator of the show, filling in the gaps for us. You could say he has a charmed life; good looks, aging well, and his husband Aiden is equally as attractive and successful. They have a close-knit group of friends who have been together since the 1980s when living a queer lifestyle was dangerous and unacceptable. Their friendship began at a point in history when the demonization of their culture was the norm. Together they built a community and survived during a time when fear manipulated political agendas.
The group became like family, forming deep bonds through the years of struggle. Considering how well things appear to be going now, in 2015, it isn’t surprising that Aiden doesn’t notice his partner’s discontent. Eric’s existential crisis isn’t apparent from his outward appearance, but there is an unrest bubbling beneath the surface. Middle-age is quickly approaching, and the pressure within the gay community to stay in shape, maintain a successful career and the need to set a precedence for what a good marriage looks like, is all beginning to take its toll.
Bettendorf juxtaposes life after much of the fight for gay civil rights has been won, with the hard truth of what it took to get to where the community is today. The story starts with a snapshot of the present then catapults us into Eric’s past, as the plot takes an unexpected turn. After a night of celebration, Eric wakes up and realizes that he has somehow returned to1988. As the logline suggests, once he realizes where he is, Eric sets out on a quest.
” If there were a way to go back and correct the one thing you’ve come to regret most in life would you, could you, should you?”
This dual time-period premise is going to work well for the series. Approaching the story by illustrating the differences between the past and present sheds light on the challenges that still exist within the LBGTQ community.
Most of the audience should be able to relate to the characters on some level, realizing that so much of what life throws at us is part of the human experience. All people want love, thrive on friendship and seek to find personal fulfillment. Building empathy by finding common ground with the audience gives Bettendorf the opportunity to shed light on the oppression that still exists for this segment of society, without appearing to be preaching from a soapbox. In this way, entertainment leads to a dialog about intolerance.
Treading Yesterday promises to be an engaging most likely binge-worthy series. By the end of Episode 1, we feel invested in the lives of Bettendorf’s characters and need answers to our questions about the mysterious newcomer, Will.
Make sure to watch the pilot all the way through to the end of the credits to see what lies ahead.
Helen Wheels, Medium
Treading Yesterday is really on point, a possible revolutionary series that might be your next obsession.
Craig Bettendorf is a true visionary! We say that after watching the pilot episode of series that appears to be a really big hit “Treading Yesterday”. We were fascinated by the plot of the pilot episode because it’s not the simple and schematic idea that drifts apart whilst the movie is in the making, Treading Yesterday is really on point, sketching a possible revolutionary series that might be your next obsession.
The story focuses on Eric a middle age gay man living a charming life in the present day. At some point the main focus goes back in time to 1988 to Eric’s life back then, when the population was not as accustomed to homosexuality and the intolerance can be seen more or less in every social situation. As we’ve said before, this plot seems super interesting and provoking because we don’t have many movies regarding this subject and when it comes to a series, we can’t recall having anything remotely close to this. The actors are amazing performers, sending their viewer an amazing vibe. Even if you’re a slightly conservative person, this series will definitely make you come to your senses.
We’ve seen a number of series but have to be honest that Treading Yesterday wasn’t something we could predict. We took it as it was having no expectations whatsoever and we were blown away by the innovative plot and the tender yet edgy approach. There were some minor leaks in terms of cinematography but when the movie is making a point we can easily ignore them.
We are one hundred percent encouraging Craig Bettendorf to move forward and do at least one season of this show because this world needs imagination and Treading Yesterday is a necessary breath of fresh air!
Feel the Reel, October 2017
“Viewers of Treading Yesterday aren’t only trying to figure out what’s really going on as the series is a bit of a puzzle box, they’re also grappling with the underlying themes of inclusivity and human sameness.”
“Before I sat down with writer and creator Craig Bettendorf to discuss his efforts during the past three years in launching Treading Yesterday, the series, he was quick to offer the following as a primer of sorts:
When Armistead Maupin’s series of novels, Tales of the City were fashioned into a television series in1993 they were brought to life by Working Title Films/Propaganda Films for the UK’s Channel 4, eventually playing on public television in the US.
1995’s Stonewall movie which depicted the civil unrest that led up to the LGBT Liberation movement was a BBC production in association with the US-based Killer Films.
Even the perennial Queer as Folk had its start in the UK, produced by Red Production Company and airing on Channel 4 in 1999 prior to being licensed to the Showtime Network in 2000 for a refresh and US re-branding. So when Treading Yesterday premiered at the 2016 Dances With Films Festival in Los Angeles, it came as no surprise to Craig when Screen Hits London, offered them a spot in their curated annual flagship competition, the ScreenHits Pilot Showcase.”
Treading Yesterday is entertainment, but like many forms of entertainment, it is also meant to be thought-provoking. The early water-cooler conversation generated from watching the episodes has been pretty on point because it’s involves viewers not only trying to figure out what is really going on in each episode as the series is admittedly a bit of a puzzle box, at the same time they’re grappling with the underlying themes of inclusivity and human sameness. Deep down people are all pretty much the same. They want to find a purpose for their lives, they struggle with those things beyond their control and they surround themselves with family and loved ones who give deeper meaning to their lives. In this way Treading Yesterday may be able to bring groups of people closer together by bridging some of the societal gaps with a sense of compassion and the underlying understanding that we’re not all that much different from one another.
Craig Bettendorf, writer, creator and executive producer of the award-winning series ‘Treading Yesterday’ is no novice to LGBT subject matter. His early work led him to be among the principle signatories of 1996’s National Freedom to Marry Resolution (predecessor to Marriage Equality) denouncing the Federal Defense of Marriage act as well as the honor of presenting to the students and faculty of the Harvard Divinity School in 1999. The series clearly benefits from his personal experience as Treading Yesterday’s story line juxtaposes 1988’s intolerance of Gays with present day acceptance while at the same time revealing the inherent challenges existing in both environments.
Interview by Antonio Rozich for Cult Critic Film Magazine
Antonio Rozich: Congratulations to you and to the Treading Yesterday team for all the years’ success including winning the ScreenHits Pilot Showcase sponsored by Universal Publishing Production Music. What’s next for Treading Yesterday?
Craig Bettendorf: Thank you; it’s been an extraordinary year for Treading Yesterday. Winning the Screen Hits Pilot Showcase and as a result, progressing to series has been a dream come true for our recurring cast of twenty and production team of seven. Now we’re simply awaiting the development deal that will bring our double-episode pilot to series by completing and airing all episodes of season one. Screen Hits Pilot Showcase really reinforces the message that your voice and your art have merit and must be shared with the world. As we now progress to series we do so rejoicing in the knowledge that Screen Hits and Universal Publishing Production Music have provided this amazing vehicle from which our stories can be told.
Q– Unlike with Treading Yesterday where it starts in the present, I’d like to know some past information. Tell us about yourself & your filmmaking career.
A-The creation of ‘Treading Yesterday’, the series has a compelling story-line of its own. The initial writing of our double-episode pilot came into being as a storytelling device, created to convey a sense of perspective to my friends, Matt & Ivan, both Millennial’s who had little frame of reference as to how today’s broader acceptance of LGBT people came into being. As we concluded our first table read, both simply demanded more. Offering the episodes in a historical-fiction format allowed both to experience actual events through the lives of Treading Yesterday’s fictional characters. This process ultimately led us in our first-time filmmaker odyssey, which included self-financing (I sold my home and other assets) casting (we selected every individual ourselves), filming (we hired a director and a crew) and producing our pilot episodes, which Screen Hits began streaming last year.
Q-How many episodes per season are you planning?
A-I modeled the series using the British template of eight tightly written episodes per season. In this way, each episode has a strong impact on the overall storyline. I’ve recently begun writing season three so the first two seasons for a total of 16 episodes are ready to produce.
Q-And each episode resides on two different timelines, correct?
A-That’s correct. Episode one opens in the present day but by midpoint, it resets to 1988 in a period of time when monumental anti-gay backlash in the US had been orchestrated. In this way, the viewer is able to experience the lives of our characters in both the present which tends to be more LGBT accepting while at the same time being able to experience what it took to get to this point by following the 1988 timeline.
Q- In her review for Cult Critic, Helen Wheels mentioned the challenges of having to keep a specific image; having a successful career, staying in shape, etc. Not looking just at your experience, would you say these aspects are related to today’s age in the gay community or did it exist back when intolerance was at its full strength as well? If you can tell us something more about it.
A-Every story needs a storyteller and Eric is Treading Yesterdays. We experience life through his eyes. It’s no secret that as you grow in your experience and wisdom you reflect back on your life which is how our series opens. The Holidays can be pretty tough on people as they reflect on what they accomplished and what they could have done differently and this is how we first meet Eric in episode one. His journey is his journey, although it may apply to others in a universal way (fearing the beginnings of ageism in a youth-based culture, etc) it is his own and the basis for our emersion into his world.
Q-How optimistic are you in terms of the current social climate and bringing Treading Yesterday to series?
A– We are very optimistic. A study published earlier this year cited that 20% of all Millennials identify as LGBTQ. Millennials are reshaping society rapidly in many ways, entertainment is sure to follow. In addition, Treading Yesterday’s fan base of 18-34 year old is its largest single demographic, accounting for nearly 80% of its total. The recent news of ABC’s development of a Gay-Dad’s series in the US along with ITV’s upcoming production of a series called Butterfly in the UK offer hope that inclusive programming is finally upon us in 2018. I am reminded that it wasn’t any more than a year ago when billboards sprung up across Hollywood calling for broader inclusivity of LGBT characters in Television and Film. It appears that the studios have been listening and that makes us very optimistic.
Q-So what do you say to those who say that there is already sufficient LGBT character representation on Television? Why is a series like Treading Yesterday still needed?
A-I read an excellent article last year in Vulture that was titled, “Why we need a Big Gay TV show.”The author asked why is it that with all of the individual inclusion of LGBT characters on network TV that there isn’t one big gay show? A show that features mostly gay characters following their lives and experiences rather than depicting gay characters in a larger cast, where we only get to see depictions of their lives through the eye of the straight lens which is a heterosexist view of how gay people fit into society. Although I’d already finished writing season one of Treading Yesterday the thought of this article really stuck with me. Treading Yesterday coined a phrase early on that has stuck with us, that being that our series is “Spoken in our words and heard in our voices.” I think that this sense of genuineness is why we’ve been warmly received by the film festivals. Not only is Treading Yesterday something new that they haven’t seen before it’s also hard to pigeon-hole. The series is definitely a Drama but it also dabbles in the Sci-Fi-genre as the series protagonist, Eric may or may not be experiencing time-travel.
Q- A quick one. Tell me about some movies, directors & writers that might have influenced you as a filmmaker.
A-When I first began meeting with producers and their production teams they were interested in knowing what the series would look and feel like on a visceral level. I know that I surprised them with at least some parts of my answer. I loved the look and feel of 2014’s Need for Speed. The storyline follows a group of supportive friends as their friend and protagonist played by Aaron Paul went on a redemptive quest which shares much with Treading Yesterday. In addition, the outdoor cinematography really made California (its beauty and nature) a supporting character of the story, so yeah! I used Need for Speed as a comparison. I also really liked the mood and vibe of 2013’s The Canyons and often used this film to describe a mood or the feel of a scene we were working on. Finally, I also cited 2013’s Locke in which Tom Hardy kept us on the edge of our seats without ever exiting his BMW. These three movies mixed together gave those who assisted us with our double episode pilot understanding as to what we were looking to accomplish.
Q- Finally, what are your future plans?
A- It’s all about continuing our momentum and bringing Treading Yesterday to series. Once we can power up our TV show and catch an episode we’ll be able to think of other projects but not until then.
Antonio Rozich, Cult Critic Film Magazine, December 2017
“Treading Yesterday is a work with an incredible dynamic among the cast. What is the secret to achieving this?” An Interview with Craig Bettendorf
Craig Bettendorf, the writer and creator of the ISA award-winning series, “Treading Yesterday” talks about the challenges involved in the development of the series and gives some tips to newcomer’s of independent filmmaking.
ISA: What made “Treading Yesterday”, the series come into being? Why now?
Craig Bettendorf: The creation of “Treading Yesterday” has a compelling story-line of its own. The initial writing of our double-episode pilot came into being as a storytelling device, created to convey a sense of perspective to my friends, Matt & Ivan, both Millennial’s who had little frame of reference as to how today’s broader acceptance of LGBT people came into being. As we concluded our first table read, both simply demanded more. Offering the episodes in a historical-fiction format allowed both to experience actual historical events through the lives of “Treading Yesterday”’ fictional characters. And although growing legal and social acceptance of LGBT people has been experienced throughout the past five years one must be mindful of the fact that a shift in the political climate could bring a swift reversal of these hard-fought victories. This makes “Treading Yesterday” even more relevant today than it was three years ago when the first pilot episodes were written.
SA: What budget did you have for the “Treading Yesterday”? Was it scary or enough for the project? Did it restrain some ideas? How did financial supporters welcome a gay-oriented theme?
CB: “Treading Yesterday” was envisioned as a web-series. As the entertainment industry quickly began to evolve in its opinion of the importance of web-based content, offering a select few a shot at television or streaming, our business plan changed quickly in order to adapt. The storyline of “Treading Yesterday” hadn’t been seen before combining the elements of the LGBT, Drama and Sci-fi genres made it stand out as unique and different leading us to invest in a two-part television pilot in order to ensure that our audience was able to fully grasp the concept over two thirty minute viewings. The original budget to produce an eight-episode web-series was spent long before we completed the first of our two pilot episodes. Without giving away the exact budget details suffice it to say that it was necessary for me to sell my home in order to bring both episodes to completion. Although we originally expected a production company to embrace the concept from script to screen it was necessary, primarily due to the uniqueness of the storyline, for us to self- finance. This gave us far more creative control of the project as we selected the production crew, director and post-production teams. In the US you must hire a registered stockbroker to package your film project and sell it to accredited investors for funding. This is a highly complex process that we were able to side-step as a result of self-funding. Finally, there is still some hesitation to pick up or fund LGBT projects. All independent filmmakers are trail-blazers and being an LGBT independent filmmaker or having an LGBT project puts you squarely in the mix of this amazing group of people who put everything they have on the line to tell their stories. This we share in common.
ISA: How long was the shooting and which were the main challenges on the set?
CB: Our shooting schedule was well planned and executed because we hired an established production company. We successfully shot both pilot episodes in twenty days with a few days for pick up shots. Staying anywhere near the projects original budget was the greatest challenge. In hindsight resources could have been much better spent had this not been our first filmmaking experience.
ISA: What kind of direct involvement did you have on the set during the shooting and in the post-production?
CB: I was on set every day of the shooting schedule and worked closely with the director, actors, and crew to ensure that the spirit of our script was maintained. Post production was an enlightening process. As scenes were cobbled together they were shared with the director and me for any needed revisions. I also selected and negotiated all of the music played throughout the episodes in order to ensure that each scene had the emotional backing of a great soundtrack.
ISA: This is a work with an incredible dynamic among the cast. What is the secret to achieving this?
CB: Casting is probably the second most important factor in the success of an independent film, second only to the story or script. I often compare the story or script to the two slices of bread that hold a sandwich together while the cast serves as the ingredients inside the bread that make the sandwich satisfying and memorable. Although residing in Los Angeles offered us an amazing talent base from which to select our actors, it was in the selection of each and in the pairing of each to others, checking them for general chemistry and relatability brought the genuineness of the relationships we hoped to convey to the audience. We began like most projects with table reads during which the actors began to relate to one another. We also created a Facebook group-page where they could interact with one another off set, plan events and get-togethers all of which enhanced their relatability to the audience. As we await the pick up of our series several continue in friendship and comradery by acting in one another’s side projects all of which keep their skills sharp and improves their believability as friends on the screen. Most of our reoccurring cast of twenty are now like family and that’s a great place for us to be.
ISA: How difficult is it to make the audience believe in the characters and feel emotionally linked with “Treading Yesterday”?
CB: The basis of good storytelling is to make your story and its characters relatable. Although our series follows the life of Eric, a gay man it is relatable to most because deep down we are all pretty much the same. We all want to find a purpose for our lives, we all struggle with those things beyond our control and we all surround ourselves with family and loved ones who give deeper meaning to their lives. In this way “Treading Yesterday” is able to bring groups of people closer together by bridging some of the societal gaps with a sense of compassion and the underlying understanding that we’re not all that much different from one another.
ISA: What do you think “Treading Yesterday” can share with the audience?
CB: History has a tendency to omit the lives and works of marginalized people. The LGBT communities have certainly experienced this. It is the responsibility of the current generation to share its stories with the next generation so they are not lost. Oral storytelling only gets you so far in the fog of collective consciousness. Millennials who woke up three years ago to the reality of the Supreme Courts passing of marriage equality often have a deep yearning to understand what brought about this great social change. Through the vehicle of historical-fiction, “Treading Yesterday” is able to offer some of these answers through its use of a multi-timeline story telling. Our pilot episode opens in the present day but by mid-point takes the audience back to the late 1980’s. The continuation of this double-timeline in every episode gives the viewer a look into the past and a comparison to what is being experienced today.
ISA: What cinematic influences have inspired you in the making of “Treading Yesterday”?
CB: When I first began meeting with producers and their production teams most were interested in knowing what the series would look and feel like on a visceral level. I know that I surprised them with some parts of my answer. I loved the look and feel of 2014’s “Need For Speed”. The storyline follows a group of friends who support the protagonist played by Aaron Paul as he sets out on a redemptive quest which shares much with “Treading Yesterday”. In addition, the outdoor cinematography really made California’s beauty and nature a supporting character of the story, so I often used “Need For Speed” as a comparison. I also really liked the mood and vibe of Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis’s 2013’s “The Canyons” and often used this film to describe a mood or the feel of a scene we were working on. Finally, I also cited 2013’s “Locke” in which Tom Hardy kept us on the edge of our seats without ever exiting his BMW. We spend a lot of time in our cars in LA so finding a way to convey a storyline as we inch our way up the freeway was important. Being able to cite these three films gave those who assisted us with our double episode pilot understanding as to what we were hoping to achieve.
ISA: Are you happy with the final result or would you change something?
CB: We’ve been pleased with the end result and are grateful for the talents of all who participated in its creation.
ISA: What’s next?
CB: Winning the ScreenHits Pilot Showcase sponsored by Universal Publication Production Music last April 18, 2017, certainly gave “Treading Yesterday” the exposure needed for consideration by networks, premium channels, and streaming services. We are currently awaiting a development deal that will take our double pilot episode through season one completion and to release.
ISA: Do you have any advice for other independent ﬁlmmakers, particularly for the newcomers?
CB: Being an independent filmmaker can be exhilarating and crushing as inevitable set-backs are sure to occur during the making of your film. Please know that no matter where you live that you’re not alone and that other independent filmmakers live near-by. Tap into your own local filmmaking community and you will receive both support and validation by becoming a part of it. It’s also pretty standard for people in these communities to assist one another with their projects by lending their time, expertise and even equipment to a worthy project. Also know that this decade is the first in which every voice can be heard. Advances in digital platforms and the lowering prices of equipment offer everyone the ability to tell their stories. If you see yourself as a feature filmmaker but don’t have the budget to match, make a short as a proof of concept and use it as your digital calling card. Enter your short film into film festivals and gain the experience that each one will offer you. Create a social media presence for the project (Facebook & Youtube are great first starts) and watch your film evolve as it reaches out into the world and finds its own community.
ISA: What did it mean for you to be awarded in the Independent Shorts Awards?
CB: We believe that the relevance of “Treading Yesterday”, the series continues to grow and has a trajectory all its own as more people learn about it. The fact that “Treading Yesterday” was awarded the Best Ensemble cast and the Best Original Story awards speak to its continued relevance in the world. We are all both humbled and ecstatic to receive this validation from ISA through its support of the independent filmmaker.
ISA, July 2018